Sunday, September 6, 2009

getting up my canning nerve

This years community garden has been such a huge blessing, not only in terms of what it produces, but also in terms of how it makes me feel being out there working, planting, observing. As we began to bring home produce I would often have thoughts of canning-but then I would just resort to freezing. Something about canning seemed intimidating and just plain scary to me-which I found both intriguing and ironic because I grew up seeing my own grandparents can a lot their own homegrown produce.
Partly, in my younger years, I think I began to view canning as something that only "older" people did. Both of my grandparents were born in the rural South, so canning was just a way of life for them-but this wasn't the case for me. Need food-go to the grocery store, right? However, as I have gotten older I've noticed something strange happening. I seem to be looking toward those "old ways" for some reason, looking to hold on to them I suppose. Eating the best dill pickles from mason jars, putting homemade chow-chow over my pinto beans-just enjoying the simple goodness of food raised by my ones own hands, canned by ones own hands. So this past week I got up my nerve, went to the hardware store to buy my boiling water canner, jars and other needed items. Now after I made all the appropriate purchases-you know what I did next? Of course, I called my grandmother. She gave me such great information and told me exactly what I needed to do for my tomatoes (while she was talking to me I could hear my grandfather in the background giving instructions as well :) She also told me what things could only be processed with a boiling water canner and those that could only be processed with a pressure canner (I already knew this from my frantic reading), but as I was writing her words down on a paper-I felt that she was giving me something more than I could ever get from a book, she was giving me part of our family-a part that I needed.
After I talked to her I felt better about my canning pursuit.
I suppose my biggest fear with this all is the fear of botulism-which is a real and scary thing-but with the proper information fear is lessened and new abilities are acquired. You know it also occured to me that while it was hard for me to get up my canning nerve I rarely think twice about eating something that has been processed by "someone else" (someone else being the food industrial complex)-yet people fall ill to glitches in that system as well (just typing out loud here).
It seems like more and more of us are looking for those "old ways" now days, when life wasn't particularly easy-but still not so full of the noise and distraction that surrounds us today. Perhaps all this distraction prevents us from honoring our past, the very past that could in part enhance our very own lives-here in the now, and as well as our own futures.

~putting the sauce into the jars

~hot water bath

~canned sauce

~canned sauce, from above


  1. This is such a wonderful post. I can so relate. My mom did some canning when I was a kid, but my neighbors, especially those that were homemakers, canned ALL the time.

    As a kid, you didn't realize the value in what the "older" generation was doing. Then it just seemed like a lot of extra work. Shelling beans, shucking corn, slicing peaches...all for the future.

    When you get older, you realize that all of those things/those experiences helped to shape you and sometimes we have to reach back and get those things that were forgotten so that we can continue to pass it on to future generations with joy because now we know what we didn't know then. It's more than just storing up food - it's time to spend with family, it's passing on a part of our heritage, it's wisdom, it's economical, and so many other things.

    *Sorry for the long response. I truly enjoy your blog!


  2. We don't do any canning at home - as you said, need food? go to the grocery - since we live in a small flat in the centre of the city and have no time and no room for that. But I recall my relatives back at town: they pick their own olives, make their own oil, can their tomatoes to eat them in the winter...

    I love to visit them because they always give me a bottle (or two!) of something homemade. Later when I am eating it I can feel there is their effort and their love in it.

    Lovely post! You made me wish to have a garden to grow my own vegetables. :-)